“Chained by Fear” (Book 2 of The Death Wizard Chronicles) Jim Melvin

The first chapter is extraordinarily powerful: a chilling creation of the terrible “Sun God” Invictus in his youth, in love with his much younger sister Laylah, who is energised by the reflective moon. The magic is elemental, off the normal scale, and terrifying in both its invincibility and its cruelty; and the scale of the story is huge: a vast landscape of mountains, forests, streams and valleys, fortresses, towns and villages peopled by peasants, pirates, Mogols, giants, dwarves, dragons, dracools and innumerable other fantastical creatures, with demons and death knowers as the incredibly powerful protagonists, all linked to a time almost lost in the mists of time by terminology credibly derived from ancient Sanskrit.

It’s a vast canvas which takes some handling, and Jim Melvin’s writing is certainly up to the challenge. For me it reached its heights when dealing with the intensity of the interactions between characters and what that revealed of their personalities, and also when exploring situations which highlighted important moral questions about truth and beauty and the abuse of power. I was less interested in what they had for dinner or what they happened to be wearing, which made me conscious while reading it of which details I thought added most to the power of the telling and which I personally could have done without.

That point having been made (an observation, not a quibble) I found the cliffhanging end an admirable hook with which to draw readers on to Book 3, and I will certainly be downloading, reading and reviewing it.